Is Joe Manchin Lucy or the Football?

Yves here. It’s pretty remarkable to see Big Oil via its current favorite front, Joe Manchin, push for “Frack baby, frack” when shale gas will not substitute for Russian oil. And worse, apparently no one in the climate change opposition has bothered to learn enough about oil production and refining to call this nonsense out. Yours truly is NOT on the energy beat. The fact that I’ve worked that “fracking will not solve our Russian oil problem” with only minimal contact with this topic, and supposed full-timers haven’t, is yet more proof of why the left sucks. It can’t get past emotionally-appealing sloganeering to understand how things actually work.

The US needs heavier grades to mix in with very light (shale gas) or light (Saudi light sweet crude) to produce diesel and home heating oil. Russian oil is apparently moderately heavy and therefore a very productive source for diesel and home heating fuel. Absent heavier grades, we have a problem with diesel, already in short supply globally, and home heating fuel. Yes, they apparently can be produced from lighter grades, but those “lighter” grades have shorter carbon chain which means are lower energy density. So using light sweet crude to make diesel is inefficient and will put price pressure on gasoline.

The US was willing to suddenly kiss and make up with Venezuela to get heavy crude for mixing purposes. Even though the Biden Administration had allegedly been thinking of “normalizing” relations with Caracas, it hadn’t done much of anything along those lines. So its plan to make nice in exchange for Venezuela’s oil ran into a firestorm of criticism and the Administration chickened out. And even if that initiative had succeeded, it would not have provided enough heavy sour crude to fully replace the lost Russian supply.

And don’t fool yourself about Canadian tar sands. From reader Skeptic:

“Syncrude” from tar sands oil is extremely light after pre-refining and, therefore, maybe not so helpful for diesel. Venezuelan oil is heavy and sour–also has high vanadium which will poison refinery catalysts. They are not good substitutes for each other…

I think the Canadian syncrude is mostly expected to be exported from our Gulf Coast rather than refined in USA. That would be why one of the arguments against Keystone XL is that Canadians should build their own pipeline from Athabasca to a port in British Columbia and not put USA water at risk.

By Thomas Neuburger. Originally published at God’s Spies

First, I strongly recommend subscribing to climate writer Brad Johnson’s Substack site “Hill Heat.” It’s brief, it’s daily or nearly so, and it covers the nexus between politics — especially Democratic Party politics, which is where the critical (in)action is — and the increasingly desperate climate reality everyone with children is facing.

Second, from Hill Heat, there’s this:

Manchin pulls away the football

Joe “Lucy” Manchin is pulling away the climate football from the Charlie Brown Democrats. After President Joe Biden and his top advisors called for a full mobilization for clean energy independence, Manchin got to work. On Thursday, he called for a massive increase in oil and gas drilling. On Friday, he got rapturous applause from oil and gas executives as he trashed federal backing for electric vehicles. Today, he announced his opposition to climate hawk Sarah Bloom Raskin’s nomination to the Federal Reserve. It’ll be fun to see what he kills next.

I’m sincerely hoping that the advocates who are paid quite well to convince the U.S. Congress to enact strong climate policy now adjust their strategy away from “make a deal with Manchin,” because it ain’t gonna happen.

How the DC consensus kills the climate

THE CONSENSUS VIEW: Experienced climate journalists report that politicians support oil and gas development to bolster national security, and cite a non-partisan think tank which argues doing so would be good for climate action.

THE CONSENSUS VIEW, BEHIND THE CURTAIN: The authors (Ben Gemanand Andrew Freedman) of a fossil-fuel-industry-sponsored newsletter (Axios Generate, presented by ExxonMobil, Chevron, et al.), present fossil-fuel industry talking points (“industry and Republicans say”) and then link to an essay at a fossil-fuel-funded think tank (Center for Strategic and International Studies, funded by BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, et al.) written by a former fossil-fuel industry executive (Nikos Tsafos, the former Global Gas Practice Director at PFC Energy).

Axios: It’s a must read!

An excellent observation. There’s more at the link, but let’s look just at the point made above.

What We Learned

A couple of observations:

1. This is the section of the Axios Generate newsletter referenced above:

Oil and gas have fresh political mojo. The industry and Republicans say high prices and Europe’s reliance on Russia make a case for more U.S. leasing and LNG export approvals.

• But that could lock in new fossil infrastructure for decades (here’s a reminder that LNG is complicated on the climate front).

• The White House backs more near-term oil production and LNG shipments, even as it pushes clean energy as a lasting fix.

Note the final paragraph — “it [the White House] backs more near-term oil production, even as it pushes clean energy”.

So is the “White House” — Joe Biden — in favor of more oil and gas production, or opposed to it?

2. Here’s the answer, via Jerri-Lyn Schofield at Naked Capitalism:

Biden Administration Greenlights More Fossil Fuel Drilling Permits in 2021 for Public Lands and Waters than Did Trump in 2017

As he moves into his second year as President, it seems the only promise Joe Biden has made good on is his pledge that “Nothing fundamental will change.”

This promise even applies to policies on climate change where voters might have expected Biden to pursue initiatives that curtailed expansion of the oil and gas industry. No such luck. Instead, Biden seems to be following in the footsteps of the last Democratic president, who proudly and publicly took credit for the oil and gas boom. Positively gloated. And if you don’t believe me, watch the video clip contained in this post, which I posted – again! – less than a fortnight ago (U.S. Interior Department Moves to Block Some Oil and Gas Leasing on Alaska’s North Slope).

The Biden Fossil Fuel Record: Full Speed Ahead for Drilling on Public Lands

3. And there’s much more where that came from. See “Industry Calls the Climate Shots in the Biden Administration” for a massive taste of his criminal climate deeds from inauguration through last June.

4. Which means only one thing. Both Brad Johnson and I are wrong — Brad for calling Joe Manchin “Lucy” in the “Lucy and the football” metaphor, and me for implying it with my lead cartoon (above).

Joe Biden — and all the other oil-and-gas complicit members of the Democratic Party — are Lucy, not Joe Biden.

Manchin, in reality, is the football, something placed before climate-fix hungry progressives and voters as a way to “fix the Party” by fixing Joe Manchin. But Joe Manchin can never be fixed. He can only be used as a focus of our anger — and misplaced energy and “footwork.” Which means, I fear, that the Party can never be fixed.

As the old joke goes, it only takes one psychiatrist to change a light bulb, but the light bulb has to want to change. Does the Democratic Party, as currently controlled, want to change? Or do its leaders resist reform with a fervor greater than their resistance to Republicans?

If Manchin’s not the perp, the actual cause of our frustration, then the Party is the cause, and Manchin’s just the bait, the distraction that leads us to misplace our anger.

If you doubt that this is right, consider what you read above, then prove me wrong.

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  1. clarky90

    The simple way to make bio diesel.

    I like this way of thinking; Using waste products (used cooking oil) to make diesel.

    I was in my local supermarket just now, and vegetables are very expensive. It is autumn here, so vege should be cheap?

    I have nasturtiums growing all over my yard. The leaves, flowers and even the seeds (they are the size of peas) are edible and nutricious. I didn’t plant them, but now they are everywhere. A miracle! They have done everything themselves, without any human help.

      1. Solarjay

        Agreed and that “waste” is recycled into other products. It’s not thrown away into the dump.

        It’s also quite a complex process. Where I used to live people tried to do it. It can work if purification is good enough in older diesels, pre 2005 about.

        But home DIY bio diesel style will destroy a modern Diesel engine.

        1. TheMog

          That’s a very important point – it works best in mechanically controlled Diesels (which is why it used to be pretty popular with the 70s/80s Mercedes Diesel crowd) and the more modern and electronically controlled your Diesel is, the less likely they are Biodiesel compatible or tolerant of high levels of Biodiesel in a fossil Diesel/Biodiesel mix.

          There are also issues around viscosity and gel points – Biodiesel, especially the home made variety, has a much higher viscosity than regular Diesel – so it tends to put more load on the pumps in the system and potentially cause additional wear. And if you live somewhere with fairly low temperatures, you’ll have to mix Biodiesel with the oil-bsed variety anyway to lower its gel point and prevent it from clogging up the fuel system.

          All of that might be doable if you’re running a farm truck that sees occasional use, but it’s a very different proposal if you’re trying to keep your commercial medium or large truck going that takes a couple of hundred gallons of fuel at every fillup.

          My understanding is that another issue in the US specifically is that Diesel refinery capacity is surprisingly limited as there isn’t much “spare” capacity over and above what’s used for commercial transportation use (as using a Diesel vehicle for personal use is much less common than in Europe, for example). As a result there is less elastic capacity when it comes to Diesel production in the US.

          So while we’re currently dealing with a supply shock, there might also be an issue with “catching up” with supply once the refineries might be able to secure another supplier of appropriate crude. This is going to be “interesting” when it comes to the impact on transportation and increases in shipping cost.

      2. dave in austin

        “prepper level”. A useful category. But the name suggests that this bit of fantasy football is exclusively a right-wing category. I can come up with a more inclusive list of unscalable ideas on climate change. The leftist versions (I support indigenous communities by buying only smallholder coffee growers’ coffee from central America at $8/lb) as well as the rightist “survivalist in the mountains” approach.

        The real problem I suspect is the same one we see today in the Ukraine propaganda; good-hearted individuals respond to concrete, simple, local events like a bleeding baby, a crying refugee or a smiling indigenous mother holding a baby. The abstractions- which bleeding baby is on the news; which crying refugee is on the front screen of Facebook; which picture of the indigenous mother should we use (one baby or all six children?)- are not categories the semi-educated are taught to think about.

        Good hearts and sound thinking are not the same thing.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          What I object to is encouraging individual-level solutions to bigger problems. Composting is a great idea and everyone who has space and a lawn or garden should do it. But home brew diesel makes sense only for a lawn mower or a vehicle for at most a few local runs.

  2. Anon

    It astounds me that this all has to be said.

    The level of naïveté and/or collusion it requires to believe the Democratic Party is simply being democratic, is disturbing. Especially considering how its high tolerance for ‘turncoats’ (lmao) calls into question its status as ‘Party’. Perhaps they should incorporate? Taken as a whole, the legislative branch operates like a communist bloc (with the cast of a telenovela), but with outcomes skewed toward the interests of capital, often at comical (sometimes lethal) expense to government authority.

    It’s interesting, the contradictions that are emerging… or rather, ossifying. Likely to become (more?) painful as it progresses.

    1. Dr. John Carpenter

      “It astounds me that this all has to be said.”

      Same. Reading this, all I could think was “Duh!” It’s the whole “rotating villain” strategy. If it wasn’t Manchin, it would have been Sinema (though she seems to be laying low recently, probably working on her post-elected official plans.) And if not Sinema, it would have been someone else. This is the standard Dem playbook for all the swell promises they make that they have no intention of keeping.

      It’s nice to see the lightbulb turn on, but I’d point out this isn’t just limited to climate issues. Check behind the curtains of any issue where they would have gotten it passed had it not been for (fill in the blank with Dem) and you’ll find the same kabuki going on.

      1. Susan the other

        Making me think of comments recently by Putin. And Mearsheimer. On “democracy”. Democracy is the supposed bedrock of liberal politics, of a liberal world order. Democracy somehow gets conflated with human rights – but it doesn’t seem to be connected to the progress of human rights. Consensus – the mechanism of democracy – kills progress. At least at the representative level of government. So, either decide things of human rights level of importance by referendum or get rid of democracy? Blasphemy, no? The question Putin raised was, Is it better to have a democratic society (chaotic conflict of interests) or is it better to have statutory human rights – food, health care, education, housing, etc. Things that are not up for debate, that are not subject to the whims of consensus, should be legal rights. I almost requires a dual economy. One for capitalist enterprise and an entirely separate one for human enterprise.

        1. Susan the other

          A dual economy would work in one important way – it would protect human rights, and therefore people, from exploitation and extraction. If private equity were bound by laws so that it could not obfuscate with clever “rules” of doing business by surprise billing and other crap – and other examples of extraction by monopolies, etc. – then the two economies could be successfully separated. It is in the mixing of the two forces, one for profit and one for social welfare, that human rights are eroded. Which is probably why (as above mentioned) “national security” is constantly invoked by the privateers. Referring to national security seems to always preclude further discussion.

  3. Michael

    “”To her credit, Lucy does follow through holding a football once on August 2, 1979. Really! She finally rejects her instinct to pull the football away before Charlie can kick it. Tragically, he misses and winds up kicking her instead. Even though statistically she had it coming, it was no kind of justice for the pure-hearted Charlie Brown.””

    I’m in the Lucy camp. Obviously Joe was kicked once when he least expected it and said Never Again!

  4. orlbucfan

    The simple fact that Big Biz/the Right/the Far Rightwingnuts control the vast majority of the MSM is a big reason why we hear/read more stupidity regarding climate chaos. There are progressives/genuine liberals who know the difference in oil products, and are working against the idiot corporations, but they don’t have the large megaphones. It’s difficult to get any kind of reliable, truthful information on practically any important subject, be it Coronaviruses, stupid wars, or the climate fight. I don’t know the answer, but I wish I did.

  5. fresno dan

    So I am going out with a lady and she is asking me questions about politics. It can be complicated to explain because so, so many of what she thinks are true are based on “facts” she has gotten from the MSM (or more accurately, facts she doesn’t get from the media). So here is how I try and describe the situation to her using todays post:
    You don’t have to read the whole thing.  The point I want to make is that substantively, Biden and Trump oil policies are not that different. But you may ask, don’t democrats paint themselves as “green” and doesn’t FOX news say the democrats are overly concerned about the environment and prevent oil drilling??? Yes, yes they do – but that doesn’t mean its true.  Most of what the political parties say about themselves is baloney.  FOX news reports things to get their viewers riled up – and a riled up viewer is a viewer, and hence higher rating and more profit.  And of course, MSNBC is the inverse.  So why don’t democrats defend themselves as NOT being so “green” – and that’s because the democratic audience wants them to be greener than they are…

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      And if a “green” appearance is part of their brand image, they would not want to dilute their own brand image by saying they are not all that “green”.

  6. rhodium

    I received a political survey call the other night that went on for 20 minutes. I didn’t think to ask who was doing the survey and don’t remember if they said (I lost my tolerance years ago and it happened to be my once a week beer night ha). It started out with the typical favorability stuff, how do you rate Biden, how do you rate Congress etc. It mostly focused on assessing how I was feeling about democrats and how they were handling things, but then in the middle of it there was a sudden shift to asking many questions about whether I found the “following argument to be convincing.” Every single argument was geared around reasons for supporting the oil industry and whether the idea was convincing to me or not. My suspicion is that there is a strong likelihood the oil industry is doing heavy research on voters to try and make sure their interests are well represented in the next election. Either that or maybe it was a democrat party funded survey, the idea of which honestly scares me.

  7. Solarjay

    As to the diesel shortage. I don’t how these numbers square with just the lack of Russian oil causing the shortage.

    The us used in import about 760,000 bpd from Russia.

    The us uses about 3 million bpd of diesel per day according the EIA.

    Jet A use is about 620,000 bpd. EIA
    Both last years numbers.

  8. TheMog

    I’ve had a suspicion that Manchin isn’t quite the “rogue” senator that the media portrays him to be and more like the designated bad guy in the “Democratic WWE show”. Obviously he has a lot of ties to the fossil fuel industry, but I think him (and Sistema) have also provided the convenient excuse for the Dem establishment to kill policies that are in favour with the electorate and displaying the standard trope of “we would implement all of these popular policies but these bad people won’t let us”.

  9. JohnnyGL

    Excellent point. It’s never been about Manchin, he’ll mostly blow with the wind as needed.

    Even the oil/gas lobbyists that got recorded while running their mouth admitted as much. Manchin is doing what he does to act as a sponge for all the bad PR for team dem.

    He loves being the center of attention. I bet he loves the fundraising even more.

  10. Arizona Slim

    If the Democrats are up in such a lather about Manchin, why weren’t they supporting candidates like Paula Jean Swearengin and Richard Ojeda? IMHO, those two would have done a much better job of serving West Virginians and representing the state in the Senate.

    1. Dr. John Carpenter

      And there’s the $64 Question. If Manchin is really this bad guy the Dems want us to think he is, why aren’t they working on getting him out? Where’s the evidence they’ve done anything to get him in line (and Brandon’s whinging about it doesn’t count.) As always, watch what they do, ignore what they say.

    2. Mary Wildfire

      I don’t know as Ojeda was any better than Manchin. Swearingen was the real deal, and ran against Capito (WV’s other, officially R senator) as well. No, the Dem establishment will not support challengers to Manchin even now as he has usefully performed the football role for them. The fact that Manchin pays no price for this, and was reelected right after approving Brat Kavanaugh for SCOTUS, is part of the reason I want to escape WV.

  11. ghiggler

    I replied to Skeptic in another thread. He is almost exactly half right about Canadian tar sands oil.

    As he states and as Yves quotes, half the bitumen is upgraded in-country to synthetic crude. This is a light sweet crude, not efficient for diesel production.

    The other half is mixed with enough lighter hydrocarbons to make it flowable. This ends up similar to Venezuelan heavy crude. It can be handled by the complex refineries on the Gulf Coast and is suitable for diesel production.

  12. anon y'mouse

    Lieberman played this role better back in the day, as no one really saw through the smokescreen (this is when i started to question things, and i’m no Einstein).

    and he was lauded for it—by the Dems! rational “bi-partisanship”, remember?

  13. Brick

    Totally agree but perceive some other things going on as well. I don’t think any body will really argue that Joe Manchin looks to be aligned with Republicans trying to encourage investments in fossil fuel. They are also trying to increase the exports of LPG to Europe even though the port facilities are not there at the other end (deliberately). This all points to frustration on the part of Democrats that they cannot control the output of US Oil and Gas and need to cooperate with other countries.

    One clarification is that the number of drilling permits has gone down in the early part of this year after being at very high levels last year. The permits were at very high levels last year and the numbers of permits without drilling is very high so it makes no difference to the argument.

    The problem may be that the drilling financing model is damaged by the pandemic and has materially changed. The rapid decline in oil prices due to the pandemic caused price hedging providers to fork out with costs now going up. On the producer side oil futures show backwardation, with prices for immediate deliveries higher than for contracts in the future. Many producers (Antero for example) are not taking out hedging for future contracts. Investors in drilling and oil companies see the prospect of volatile pricing as a result with investment going to only very secure parties. Hugh Daigle of the university of Texas argues that this has created a situation where it pays to own permits but not drill and reduce oil output. Reserves in the form of drilling permits get reported and influence market valuation.

    I still think there is more to this but my finance expertise is limited.

  14. marku52

    My Trump voting machinist was complaining that “We’ve got to get these oil prices down” He said “I don’t know why the government doesn’t set up its own oil company and turn it on when the prices get too high.”

    I was rather astonished, and pinged him a little– “But that would be SOCIALISM!!!!”

    From a national security stand point, it makes perfect sense. But it would limit the looting opportunities, so will never happen.

  15. Mary Wildfire

    I’ve been saying for a long time–if Manchin and Sinema dropped dead and were replaced somehow by progressives, does that mean the original BBB would pass, or we’d vote on universal healthcare? No. What would happen is that one or two other Dem senators would pop up and announce that they’d seen the light and realized it’s critical to protect the filibuster, etc. Because the Demublicans represent the same interests as the Republicrats–and it ain’t their constituencies, who are irrelevant. The Democrats will get relief in November, when their own voters stay away in disgust as they’ve accomplished nothing, the Rs sweep both Houses, and they can go back to blaming the Republicans for delivering nothing to their base (and the rest of the American people). The billionaires and corporations can simply buy whatever policies they want–and it looks like they are not organized into a coherent conspiracy, they just all want MORE MONEY MORE MONEY MORE MONEY, which means problems can’t be solved, which means a crash sooner than later– a civilizational crash since the same dynamic plays out in only somewhat less degree in all the so-called democracies.

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